Fashion,  ThreadTalk

Bad Romance: The Romantic Era in Fashion, Volume One

1 – Greetings, darlings. It's #threadtalk time. And we're visiting the Romantic Era. But be warned: it's a terribly toxic relationship.

This beauty is deceiving. Behind it lurks grand atrocities, oppression, enslavement, murder & more. â›°đź‘’đź–‹

And through it all, is fashion.

September 20, 2021 - @nataniabarron, #threadtalk, Bad Romance (1820-1850) - Volume 1. A dark-haired woman with her hair parted down the middle, with Classical features, looking off to the left. She has ringlets and a braided bun.

2 – Few agree on the exact dates of the Romantic Era, but I'm going with 1820-1850 & will be doing this in 2 parts.

Here is my dead boyfriend, poet John Keats, by whom I learned the term Romantic. By 1821, he was dead of TB. "Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced."

3 – In 1820, fashion was moving away from classic Regency lines.

Trim became 3D, often with folding. You see sumptuous fabrics, impressive details, & new, innovative tailoring techniques

Via the Met, ca. 1820, from America, where there were over 1.5M enslaved Africans…

A dress that seems to step out of a Jane Austen novel combines the champagne-light coloring of spring with cream netting that buttresses décolletage and sheathes the sleeves. Similarly, abstracted leaf forms at hem and neckline make a subdued version, suitable to the Regency epoch, of a floral transfiguration.

4 – CW: enslavement.

This is Yarrow Mamout, who was enslaved as a teenager in 1752. His portrait was painted in 1819. He lived until the age of 88, and spent most of his life in Georgetown, but was originally from what is now Senegal & Guinea. He was manumitted in 1796.

A man in a brown coat with a white knit cap, striped. He has brown skin, and brown eyes, and grey hair. He wears a high buttoned up jacket with wide lapels.

5 – 1821. Echoes of the Regency silhouette still survive, but there are deviations. This French gown cutwork details, but the muslin speaks to the connections with the East India Company (more on that later). The gown here is ankle-length, however, and the hem asymmetrical.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London - A white muslin evening gown with waistline under the bust, off-the-shoulder neckline and full, short sleeves. The back fastens at neck with cotton tape and narrow silk ribbon tie on a drawstring at the raised waist. The A-line skirt is about ankle-length and trimmed with three muslin flounces edged with whitework in a cutwork 'wheel' motif in buttonhole stitch and picot bars. A flounce worked in the same way adorns the neckline and sleeves.

6 – Speaking of France. In 1821, Napoleon Bonaparte dies in on the island of Saint Helena.
Some posit arsenic poisoning from Scheele's Green wallpaper was the culprit–the same that went on to kill dressmakers. Maybe not enough to be deadly, but enough to make him sick.

A man in a gauzy tent, surrounded by attendants. A woman sits by his side with a very high hairdo.

7 – And lo, by 1822, the sleeves start showing up. This silk damask number still has the relatively minimal amount of flounce, but we're starting to see the waist drop. And *flair* is happening, too.
Silk is important because is comes from China. Enter the East India Company.

A pale beige gown from 1822 with a square neck and puffy "princess" sleeves. It still has a Regency-style silhouette, but the sleeves and dropping waist are moving away. The pattern is a small damask design, and the edges have a puffed, almost quilted quality. There is a motif of vines at the edges. Met museum.

8 – Remember how we learned that the EIC destroyed the cotton industry in India?

Well, they replaced those crops… with poppies. And began illicit smuggling of opium in 1822 which further impoverished the area & eventually set the stage for the global monopoly & the Opium Wars

A huge building with opium cakes set up in long rows, with workers tending to them. It seems to go on forever.

9 – 1823. You know I am a sucker for black velvet, and since our next subject is the mother of the Gothic, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, this had to be done.

More puffed sleeves, the waist is dropping & that appliqué is lovely. Likely this was a mourning gown. Still would wear.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London - Formal mourning dress of black velvet and grey silk satin decorated with satin piping and appliqué. The dress is full length and has a wide, shallow neckline outlined with grey satin piping. It is lined with cream silk in the bodice and black silk grosgrain in the skirt. The short puff sleeves are decorated with an appliquéd satin motif stemming from the shoulder seams and are finished with the same satin piping. The waist is high but falls a good 5-10cm under the bust. Decorative lines of satin appliqué stem from the waistline to the neck and shoulder seams on the front of the dress and two lines of piping form a V shape from the waist to the shoulder seams on the back of the dress. The dress fastens at the back from the waist to the neck with seven hooks and eyes and a drawstring at the neck. The skirt is gored with a circumference of 220cm around the hem and is gathered slightly at the waist. The hem of the skirt is appliquéd with a wide band of

10 – However, for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 1823 was a very mixed bag (terrible pun: it's true that she carried around Percy Shelley's burned heart in a silk bag) but 1823 was also the year of the 2nd ed of Frankenstein

where she was finally credited as its author publicly.

A portrait of Mary Shelley, in a black dress that shows off her shoulders. She has deep-set eyes, hair parted in the middle, and thin lips. She is staring directly at the painter.

11 – 1824 and we start to see that backward-looking historical romance! A bit of retro imagination. This fanciful bit is quite a holly-day, isn't it? And with that drop waist, rather princess-like.

Nothing says culture like Christmas… in Hawai'i? Mele Kalikimaka?

From the Met description: Fashionable British dress from the early decades of the nineteenth century reveals a fascination with historical styles. Drawing inspiration from literature, theater costumes, and history paintings of medieval and Renaissance subjects, dressmakers incorporated stylistic details from twelfth- through seventeenth-century dress into contemporary fashions. The decoratively slashed sleeves of the sixteenth century, through which linen undershirts were loosely drawn, inspired puffed trimmings such as the bouillons of fine white lawn that encircle the hem of this 1820s dress. Historicized elements such as these reflect a nostalgia for Britain’s past, evoking romantic notions of the chivalry or patriotism of earlier eras. The wool crewel-embroidered holly boughs at the hem indicate that the dress was worn in winter, when the plant’s berries and foliage provided welcome color and featured prominently in Christmas decorations.

12 – In 1824, the monarchy of Hawai'i was a spectacle. So much so that when Kamehameha II (Liholiho) visited England with his family, it was all over the press.
But while Liholiho waited to meet King George IV, he contracted measles & died. Because everything is terrible.

13 – Are we ready for 1825? This is a man's dressing gown made of a patchwork of hundreds of roller print patterns. I think it's probably magical? *I* want to wear it. Closeup because, I mean, come on.
This bit of "working together" definitely didn't convey to our next point…

14 – 1825 was one treaty ratification after another by the US Senate with indigenous tribes.
Ultimately, there were over 360 of them. Broken.
This precipitated the beginning of what would be centuries of continued oppression.
Daniel Bread, Chief of the Oneida, in 1822.

A man in a red hat, with feathers I white. He has black hair and black eyes, a yellow shirt, and a tan wrap around him. He is at 3/4 pose.

15 – 1826, here comes the circus! Diamond prints and THE sleeves. Here they are! That happened fast. The Empire waist is dead.
What is in those puffs (structures!)? Truthfully, I'm obsessed with the color & the pleating.
Call in the clowns & the elephants! Elephants? Oh no…

A classic Romantic silhouette gown with diamond pattern, huge puffy sleeves, and pleated bodice. The drop waist is gone, and the sleeves are long. Printed cotton in pale and bright yellow.

16 – CW: animal death

There was a Regency show elephant in England named Chunee. He was stolen from India by the motherf*cking East India Company in 1811.
In 1826, he was tired of being a pet, had an impacted tooth & was old. He killed a handler.
So they killed him. Of course.

A man with a hat and cane and tails next to a skeleton of Chunee. Lithograph.

17 – 1827. Let's take a breather?

This beautiful dress existed. (cotton, British; morning dress). And also, Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru patents the fountain pen.


18 – 1828. Cotton again! Look at that billowy fabric. Just like the Mr. Tilneys of yore, the Romantics favored comfort and movement, & cotton did the trick.

But you needed space to grow cotton, & the EIC was lapping up the land in India with poppy crops for their opium empire.

American morning dress, cotton. Another pleated beauty, one color, all white cotton. Big bubble sleeves on this one.

19 – Back to those treaties, though. In 1828, Andrew Jackson is elected President in the US. 5 tribes, including the Cherokee, are on land he wants to hand over to white folk to farm cotton. He is merciless.
So he gets to work on his Indian Removal plans with gusto. Genocide.

The Bill ratified by congress to give the President the right to remove Native American tribes from their own lands east of the Mississippi.

20 – 1829 – Menswear starts to pinch in at the waist, too & you see it reflected in caricatures of the period, along with poofy pants. This ensemble has some lovely brass buttons & I love the color combo.
A more masculine chest was achieved with a bit of extra padding if needed.

From the Met description: The well-padded upper chest has generally been a sign of masculine power, although there have been periods when a less muscular silhouette has prevailed. When a full chest was preferred, wool felt or cotton padding-sometimes an inch thick, as here-was inserted between a man's jacket and its lining.

21 – And in 1829, we also get the first patent on the precursor to the typewriter: the typographer by Willam Austin Burt, another inventor.

See, it's not a terrible story!

Except that the prototype is destroyed in a fire.

The working typographer -- a table machine that you could set to automate printing.

22 – 1830! Now we're getting to the real drama. It's all about the angles and the curves. That collar, that trim. We're back to muslin & the trim is rosebuds and foxgloves (potentially a wedding gown).You can pick any hairstyle to the right to match!

23 – 1830 was A LOT. In Europe alone there were five Romantic nationalist revolutions: France, Portugal (& Brazil), Belgium, Italy & Switzerland. A new King of France, of Belgium, reforms in CH.
Women were at the forefront in France, in particular, inspiring art like this.

Delacroix's July revolution depiction of Liberty, a woman leading her people to victory over a battlefield.

24 – 1831 brings this moirĂ© masterpiece in green silk. Please feel free to play match-a-hairpiece to get the right feel. The neckline on this is magical, ditto belt.
This might be an American dress, but the silk was likely from somewhere else, potentially in Lyon, and in 1831…

A grey-green silk gown in moiré silk. We're getting more of a bell silhouette in the skirt, but we still have huge puff sleeves. The neckline is more of a V, however, and looks like we're heading into Victorian territory. It has a green belt with a metal embellishment.

25 – The canut (silk craftsmen) revolts began. As silk markets began tanking, workers wages went with it (if you were a lady weaver, sucks to be you).
Eventually came insurrection, resulting in 600 casualties, & insurgents captured the town briefly.
Speaking of fabric drama.

A contemporary image of the insurgents firing on the local National Guard.

26 – 1832 does not need you to adjust your screen. This printed cotton has a lot going on, and features gigot sleeves which, as the Met indicates, used whalebone or wool to keep structure. You can see the skirts starting to bell out more now. Taking up more space, very colonial.

From the Met Description - This transitional style indicates the aesthetic of its period. The large gigot sleeves were popular from the early 1830s through 1836 when they began to diminish to the tightly fitted sleeves of the following period. This type of sleeve was generally supported by whalebone or down filling. Another indication of its transitional disposition is the waist height and the full bell-shaped skirts. The rich color and lively pattern is engaging and in line with the mode of the day. Dress print is bright red and gold, zigzag.

27 – CW: genocide, massacre
Eventually opening up Illinois & Wisconsin to settlers, in 1832, American troops indiscriminately massacred 400 starving men, women & children of the Sauk & Fox tribes (who had tried to surrender).
Known as the Bad Axe Massacre.

A monument describing the events of Bad Axe Massacre.

28 – 1833 brings us lots of lace. I do love a full recreation. This one from @LACMA even gives us some hair to work with, and a handkerchief. That tiny waist, though. We know those undergarments are working overtime now.
Speaking of lace…

Wedding gown of lace, silk damask, silk lace, figured gauze. Classic Romantic silhouette again. With some good hair pouf. Stripes in creme.

29 – In 1833 Charles Babbage finally gets to meet *Ada Lovelace*. For those not in the know, Lord Byron had the honor of having Ada Lovelace as his daughter (he just wasn't involved™). She is the mother of computer science. Also a mathematical genius. (Portrait, 1836)

30 – 1834, and we're almost done for tonight, because in this year slavery is abolished in the British Empire!

… except in all the territories owned by the East India Company, Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon), and Saint Helena (where Napoleon died!).

Here's another pretty dress.

From the Met: Caricaturists of the 1830s focused on the newly fashionable inflated forms that were such a contrast to the body-revealing styles of the previous three decades. The dilation of sleeves and skirts reached such an extreme that women were often satirically depicted as airborne, caught up by gusts of wind trapped under their skirts. In fact, they were weighed down by the sleeve pillows and multiple petticoats required to support their stylish volume.

31 – 1835, I present a frock coat and two names:

James Pratt and John Smith.

They were the last two men convicted of buggery (homosexual acts) in the British Empire & hanged outside of Newgate Prison in London that year.

Some guy named Charles Dickens reported on the event.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

32 – That concludes Vol I of Bad Romance. Next week, Vol II. Sources –
General Links:

33 – 1820 – Enslaved Africans

1821 – Napoleon

1822 – The Opium Wars in India

34 – 1823 – Mary Shelley

1824 – King Kamehameha II–11en-50-20-frameset-book–1-010escapewin&a=d&d=D0.23&toc=0

1825 – US ratifies peace treaties with tribes

35 – 1826 – Chunee the Elephant

1827 – Petrache Poenaru patents the fountain pen.

1828 – Andrew Jackson

36 – 1829 – Typographer

1830 – Romantic nationalist revolutions!

1831 – The Canut revolts

37 – 1832 – The Bad Axe Massacre

1833 – Ada Lovelace

38 – 1834 – Slavery Abolition Act

1835 – Pratt & Smith

39 – That concludes tonight's #threadtalk. Beauty isn't always pretty, but it is true. I don't think that's what Keats meant when he said:
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
But, well, the truth is out there.

My dead boyfriend, John Keats.

Originally tweeted by Natania Barron (@NataniaBarron) on September 20, 2021.

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